politics.co.uk's exclusive quarterly report into MPs on Twitter.
By Ian Dunt Follow @IanDunt
Welcome to the first of our quarterly reports on the best and worst MPs on Twitter. All the MPs on the site have been rated by politics.co.uk staff and the ten best and worst pulled up for your reading pleasure. We gave MPs up to ten points each for being entertaining and another ten for being informative. Engaging with their constituency offered another five potential points, as did tweeting regularly.
The Ten best MPs on Twitter
David Jones – 16/30 points
A rare instance of a genuinely funny MP. His dry humour gets him over many of the deficiencies in his statements and his specific use of words is a pleasure to read given the bland laziness of many parliamentarian's tweets. Jones also offers a rare example of an MP who documents his activities in an interesting and atmospheric way, for instance by describing the places he's visiting or the people he has met, rather than using the stale, impersonal language typical of many in Westminster.
There's little here you won't find elsewhere.
Meg Hillier – 17/30
At her best Hillier is snide, dry and witty. While most of her attacks are party political, she maintains a conversational tone which makes them readable rather than tedious. While she sometimes overdoes the 'overworked mum' angle, there's something refreshing about her occasional asides about her personal life.
Hillier is a useful person to follow for environmental issues and offers particularly detailed tweets on Commons debates.
Kerry McCarthy – 18/30 points
Labour's Bristol East MP provides a warm and engaging account of her day-to-day life. Her quirky personality and willingness to go off-topic makes for very enjoyable posts, but she remains eloquent and focused when discussing politics. Lines like "I was going to go easy on this Tory as he's young and not very bright, but I think the gloves may have to come off..." make following her during parliamentary debates pretty much mandatory.
Regularly updates on Commons debates in a readable and engaging manner. Links to useful articles.
Number Seven (joint place):
Louise Mensch – 19/30 points
One of those rare MPs who can 'do human', Mensch's reputation has benefitted hugely from the social networking site. The Tory backbencher and chick-lit writer is occasionally frustrating, but the presence of a personality instantly puts her head and shoulders above most of the competition. As a liberal Tory, she is also commendably independent in her views. The fact that so much of her output becomes news is an added bonus.
In some ways this is the flip side of being entertaining, but several embarrassing errors, such as not understanding the role of participants in the Leveson inquiry, can occasionally make her actively uninformative.
Number Seven (joint place):
Denis MacShane – 19/30 points
Aggressive, opinionated and hard-headed, MacShane makes for a gruff tour guide of British politics. There's little funny or light-hearted here, but it has the real sense of being uncensored. The Labour MP for Rotherham is an old-school politician, full of genuinely-held principles. He is also superb at telling followers about his visits. While most MPs bore their audience to tears with statements about where they happen to be, MacShane simply describes the place and quickly makes what is usually dull suddenly genuinely interesting.
Highly informative on his select subjects (almost exclusively foreign affairs) including views on treaties and government responses to his questions.
Number Five (joint place):
Jamie Reed – 20/30 points
Wry, dry, sharp and frequently hilarious, Reed's understated attacks on his political opponents are an absolute charm. His political point-scoring is some of the best in the Commons. He never takes anything too seriously, but his observations on the world, from the death of boxer Joe Frazier to the people outside the Tube station, are intelligent and revealing.
Little there to inform, although the odd bit of analysis or a useful link creeps in.
Number Five (joint place):
Chris Bryant – 20/30 points
Self-deprecating, eclectic and personable, the Labour MP maintains a deft tone throughout, keeping followers updated on his campaigns (mostly phone-hacking) while dropping in odd bits of pub-style banter on general knowledge. He knows how to use Twitter to get more information and is supremely comfortable with the medium.
Useful to follow, especially on phone-hacking, but not a detailed parliamentary observer. His recent elevation to Labour immigration spokesman has seen him use some of his social media skills in his frontbench role – a potentially interesting development.
Number Three (joint place):
Nick de Bois – 21/30 points
Not exactly a barrel of laughs, but De Bois speaks in his own voice and uses the tool in the informal manner it was intended for. Political points jostle for position with comments on his fellow commuters or what's on TV, providing a well-rounded and entertaining stream. Contact with constituents is regular and businesslike, which is as it should be.
Excellent use of Twitter for keeping followers aware of campaigns, outlining his views in analytical detail and corresponding with constituents.
Number Three (joint place):
Tom Watson - 21/30 points
The Labour deputy chair and phone-hacking campaigner has a strong reputation on Twitter and for good reason. He's particularly enjoyable when describing the music in his office and engaging in light-hearted mockery of those who respond to it. Easily the funniest MP on Twitter, a feat made somewhat easier by the fact that most tweets are on the subject of music or video games. Some standout lines can even trigger a loud laugh, a common enough reaction to people outside the palace of Westminster, but an almost unheard-of development inside. His political statements are perfectly constructed for Twitter: concise, to the point and robust enough to quote elsewhere, including in news stories.
Virtually indispensible for phone-hacking related material. Particularly impressive for linking to material which provides background on, but does not necessarily support, his own view.
Stella Creasy - 22/30 points
Creasy is excellent at replying to questions from followers and constituents, offering thoughtful advice and discussing politics in a cogent and precise way. But the Walthamstow MP's primary charm lies in her informal style. Her personality shines through in light-hearted, amiable tweets which sound more like a text from a mate than a member of parliament. Rub her up the wrong way, though, and she's liable to return fire.
Keeps followers updated with accurate but easy-to-understand tweets on the situation in the Commons which can be comprehended without having to read the whole bill yourself. Also links to useful material on other topics.
The Ten Worst MPs on Twitter
Catherine McKinnell – 14/30 points
The shadow children's minister is a perfect example of the schizophrenic effect of many politicians' Twitter feeds. In a relentless attempt to seem harmless and likable, everything that occurs during the day is "great", from meetings with charities to evening receptions. This permanent optimism contrasts rather sharply, however, with her attacks on Tories, whose "blatant hypocrisy" and "total denial" allude to a truer voice.
As an account of which pressure groups and charities have met the shadow children's minister, it's mildly useful.
Greg Barker – 13/30 points
While all frontbench politicians have a tendency to become boring in their quest to not offend anyone, Greg Barker deserves special mention. The energy minister starts every tweet with the phrase 'productive meeting' before filling us in on its unfortunate participants. Political statements are limited to party-political point-scoring of the most regrettable kind.
It's hard for a minister not to be at least partially informative and anyone interested in green issues will want to keep tabs on this account to check who's passing through the doors at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Constituency : 1
Steve Brine - 13/30 points
There is a particularly kind of Twitter feed which starts every post with the word 'just', as in: 'Just arrived at', 'just going to', 'just left'. Brine's the one of the worst culprits in this respect, listing an interminable series of local meetings and shop openings with the apparent certainty that someone is listening. "Just arrived to open a new barbers in Oliver's Battery. Snip snip in every sense," one typically impenetrable entry reads.
If you are interested in the various social and professional engagements of a Winchester MP, then this is the feed for you. If you have other interests, it is not.
Number Seven (joint):
Graham Stuart – 12/30 points
Earnest and harmless, but Stuart's tweets are a perfect example of the anodyne material MPs produce when desperate not to cause offence. The content details of charity races and times for surgeries are clearly well intended but they are also unspeakably dull. This is material for their constituency website or blog, not Twitter.
In its own way, the feed is highly informative. It tells you what the MP will be up to today and what charities he's supporting. Whether you'll be interested in the information is another matter.
Number Seven (joint):
Gordon Henderson – 12/30 points
A somewhat unfair choice, this one, given that the MP has only recently joined Twitter, but the gobsmackingly dull posts available on his feed deserve a mention. A stream of press releases are interrupted only by tiresome posts about which Commons debate he is attending. The best stuff is in correspondence with followers but even that is entirely lacking in content or curiosity. The only really enjoyable line is this one, which tells you everything you need to know about the account: "Enjoyed the fresh pressed apple juice brought in by my secretary, Jessica. I wonder if I can make juice out of the pears in my garden?!"
Some information on here about bills, constituency meetings and phone-ins. For a constituent, this would not be an entirely pointless account to follow. For anyone else it would be a sign of madness.
Karl McCartney - 11/30 points
An interminable list of meetings with charities and chief execs elbows for position with visits to the cathedral in this acutely tedious Twitter account. The occasional bit of domestic trivia, including a line on doing the hoovering, are unable to salvage the wreckage.
In its own way it is very informative. You will always have a very good idea what McCartney is doing. It's just that you won't want to know.
Steve Barclay – 10/30 points
Another MP who uses Twitter merely as a news feed for his blog posts. The odd bit of comment that does find its way in there concerns the intricacies of subjects as diverse as sports changing rooms and accountancy. It's not even bad enough to be partially entertaining. It's just very dull.
Once you've submitted to the type of subjects which will be covered, there is actually a considerable amount of information on offer, giving this feed a more substantive image. From savings targets to tax commissioners, Barclay's arguments are at least substantiated.
Mark Reckless – 9/30 points
Predominantly automated - with all the failure that entails - but tedious in all other aspects as well. Most automated tweets are about constituency newsletters or hospital openings, although at least one pontificated on wood chip storage. The odd posting directs followers to newspaper articles. The personal tweets are trivial in the extreme and cover social events in the evenings. To say it is pedestrian would be to make it sound too exciting.
The articles he links to are of the type you would have already stumbled upon, while he fails to point to any data or reports which might substantiate his views. Linking to the reading material of an average British adult who reads newspapers does not revealing make.
Andrew George – 6/30 points
Each tweet is merely a link to his blog – a common error by people who consider Twitter an advertising machine rather than a location for content in its own right. When he veers from this tactic, which is vanishingly rare, he appears tetchy and suspicious of his own followers. A feed which is entirely without merit or an understanding of Twitter's function.
While the blog posts may or may not have informative content in them, the Twitter account itself only offers the headlines, which deal mostly with his views and parliamentary activity.
Tessa Jowell – 5/30 points
A masterclass in tedium. The shadow Olympics minister mixes laborious party political niceties ("Really enjoyed the London reception last night & everyone very excited about @ken4london 's campaign") with persistently uninteresting news, including at least one post on her filing system. Like a modern art installation representing the tedium of modern British politics.
Barely any useful information at all.